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Updated by Rosie Edwards.

This month, we touch on a question that comes up over and over with brand new and experienced runners alike.

Form Tip:  Arms

Q:  What should I do with my arms when I run?



Updated by Rosie Edwards

While not everyone can be the running equivalent of a Tour de France champion, dancing on your pedals as you climb the Alps and the Pyrenees with the ease of a mountain goat, we all will encounter hills in our running, and probably all could use a periodic refresher on how to get the most out of our efforts on the ascents.

With the climb or descent looming ahead, how should you prepare to for the challenge ahead? Read on for a few simple cues....

1.  The basics of general good running form almost all still apply.  Keep your arms at 90 degrees (click here to review our column on What To Do With Your Arms) and keep your shoulders low (not hunched) and square to the direction you are heading.  Keep your hands relaxed and swinging through your "pockets", and maintain tall posture.

2.  Don't lean too far into the hill on the ups or too far back on the downs.  Try to maintain a slight lean forward (long lean from the ankle, not the waist) both up and down, just as you would on the flats.  Leaning too far forward on the uphill restricts the ability of your knees to drive and can compromise your ability to maximize your inhales if you are hunched over.  Stay tall, open up your chest, and give your legs and lungs room to work.  On the downhills, braking yourself by leaning backward puts unnecessary stress on your muscles and joints, and often squanders a chance to make up ground in a race.  A little forward lean, when not on an area with dangerous footing, can help get you a couple seconds closer to that PR, and leave you a bit less sore the day after.

3. Concentrate on cadence.  Resist the urge to overstride on the downhills, and do your best just to maintain your rhythm on the uphills. Yes, you will be going faster than the flats on the downhills and slower than the flats on the uphills if you maintain a similar rhythm and effort level, but you will also most likely arrive at the top of the hill without wasting a bunch of energy for little advancement, and keeping your stride landing underneath your body on the downhills instead of in front will minimize excess pounding.

4.  Don't spend a lot of time on the ground.  Keep your feet pushing off of the ground quickly, just as you would on the flat. For those used to heelstriking on the flats, hills can be a valuable tool to build foot and calf strength as you land more on your midfoot than you might normally.  On the uphills, it should almost feel like your feet are striking the ground behind you.  On the downhills try (as we have discussed), to let your feet land underneath you so you do not have to wait to let your body travel over the top before pushing off again.

5.  Look ahead.  Sure, it is tempting to look at your feet and make sure your legs are doing what we have just been talking about, but looking several steps ahead will help you anticipate any undulations in the hill ahead, any poor footing areas requiring caution, and will keep your posture tall (more air in the lungs!)  and your arms at the right angles.  

This fall, may you approach every hill with anticipation and crest the top with satisfaction! 

Have a suggestion for next month's Personal Best?  Email it to us at info@runcoach.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



The Taper

April 01, 2021

beach_running

Updated by Rosie Edwards

One of the most important, but often overlooked, components of training for a goal race is the taper.  The hard work has been accomplished and all that remains is to rest and sharpen up. Confidently easing off the gas pedal and arriving prepared, yet rested at the starting line is a crucial component to racing success.  Here are a few things to consider when race day is in sight, but still a couple weeks away.

 

You don’t have to push hard all the way up to race day in order to preserve your hard-earned fitness.

Just as it is important to heed the scheduled call for recovery days in your regular training, the last 2-3 weeks of a half or full marathon training cycle is a singular opportunity to allow your body to be as rested as possible before going to the well on the big day.   While there have likely been times where you have had to push yourself to finish the last few miles of a long run or get out of bed when a hard session is on the schedule, enjoy the reduction of miles over these last couple weeks, reminding yourself that you have the physical ability to go farther and the mental confidence from those workouts that will carry you through on race day.

 

The last few weeks are a great opportunity to focus on healthy living as you prep for your race.

If it is difficult to keep your sleep habits as you would wish for months at a time, this is an opportunity to get maximum impact from a few weeks of slightly increased sleep.  Likewise, you can make a difference with a few weeks of healthier eating habits.

 

Many of us have too many obligations and commitments to live a daily life with the healthy habits we’d hope for, but many of us (and our families) can get on board for a few weeks as enthusiasm builds for race day.  Maximize the rest you are getting from shorter workouts with an extra half hour of sleep per night and increased hydration and healthy food choices.  This will allow you to arrive at race weekend without feeling the needing to cram hydration and nutrition concerns into a two day period when that may not provide the advantage you seek.

Keep your body in the training rhythm to which you are accustomed.

Tapering doesn’t mean change everything. What it does allow you to do is keep your body and mind focused while requiring less strain and allowing for more recovery.  Your training schedule will follow a similar pattern with slightly easier tasks.   Continue to take your workouts as seriously and resist the urge to over schedule your life now that you may have a bit more time to play with than in the last few weeks.  For example, continue to allow time for the stretching you were so diligent about when the workouts were really tough, instead of dashing off in the car now that the workout wasn’t as taxing.

 

As your body will require less fueling to accomplish these workouts, the temptation may be to continue eating as though your long runs are still at maximum length.  Consider your current fuel needs and adjust accordingly to allow yourself to maintain the spring in your step you are trying to gain by backing off the volume.

 

Use the taper to make final race day plans

The taper is a great time to break in the fresh pair of shoes you plan to use on race day.  This will allow you to make sure you are past any risk of blisters or other problems, but won’t put that much wear on the shoes before you need them to really go to work.  Similarly, consider your race day attire, pre-race food consumption, and mid race fueling.  While your workouts are a bit easier, you can let yourself make final experimentations with these things to ensure you aren’t showing up to race day doing something for the very first time.

 

Don’t worry if you feel “flat” during your taper

Feeling a bit sluggish even while you are doing easier workouts can be a function of many things, but is quite common with recreational or pro runners alike.  If you continue the good habits you have tried to implement throughout the training cycle, be mindful of your relative consumption as your volume decreases, and follow your schedule, you take confidence that you have done what you can.  Yes, your body is used to a different level of activity and that may leave you feeling a bit off.  This is why it is important to maintain a similar training rhythm so you can keep your body doing familiar tasks.  Once the gun goes off, your months of training won’t betray you, and next time, you’ll recognize that flat feeling if it occurs and be even more confident.

 



RunnerUpdated by Rosie Edwards

While we have many athletes who have been training with runcoach for years, we also love the constant influx of beginning runners or runners now tackling their first challenging goal race. 

On the blog, we talk about all sorts of topics, but we also have an extensive archive of short pieces detailing some of the most fundamental aspects of running.  So, whether you could use a quick refresher, or have been anxious to ask these questions but too shy to reach out, here is a sample of some tips we believe can help you reach your full potential!

 






Tips for running hills

 

What to do with your arms while running

 

How to breathe while running

 

How to choose the right shoe

 

What is a taper and how do I do it well

 

The art of hydration

 

Avoiding the post-run bonk

 

The mechanics of the running stride

 

Beyond these few topics, there are dozens of articles on our blog covering everything under the sun.  We have Q&As about almost every imaginable ache and pain with experienced practitioners, interviews with professional and world class athletes, and even a few profile of fellow runcoach athletes like yourself.  Check it out!



When should I change my running shoes?

This is one of the most common questions among runners of all levels. The condition and life within your shoes have a huge impact on your body, and quality of your training sessions.

Below is an exchange between Coach Hiruni and Runcoach Athlete and avid endurance runner Andrei Marinus.

Andrei: I run over 200k per month, and a good pair of shoes (even on sale is easily over 100USD). So here’s the million-dollar question… When do I have to change them again?

Coach Hiruni: Excellent question. Most folks who take running seriously search for an answer to this question. There are general guidelines some shoe manufacturers have (400-600km or 250 – 400 miles) for wear and tear, but not everyone wears shoes the same way.

Andrei: Yes, I noticed very few of them mention a higher mileage. It could be the shoe company tries to sell as much as they can. But I also understand the reasoning - after a certain mileage, the shoe loses its advertised features, and stop protecting the runner.

Coach Hiruni: As a coach I am also reluctant to recommend running high mileage in one shoe, because I have the best interest of my runners at heart. I want you and my other runners to be protected when you leave your door for a run, and continue to stack up days, weeks, months of consistent training. There are aspects on your shoe and within your legs you can use as a guide to know it is time to upgrade your footwear.

Andrei: So it seems, the best judge should be the runner? I should listen to my body. Once I start to receive signs of pain or discomfort or simply just not the same bounce as before, it is a signal.  Though pain is universal, everyone experiences it differently. For me it is usually a bit of tightness in the ligaments around the ankle. I have ignored this in the past, telling myself that some Kenyan runners are doing marathons on bare feet, so if I keep running in worn out shoes, I would still be protected. How I wished I didn’t do that … I ended up at an orthopedist who promptly put me offline for two months. Imagine how I felt going from over 200km to zero … Let’s just say I had learned my lesson, and ever since I am really listening to my body.

Coach Hiruni: Agreed. Some of the best lessons are learned the hard way. Most people can also tell by simply looking at the bottom of the sole of the shoe. The tread (just like a tire) should look fresh. If you notice pieces missing, or the shoe just looks “old and tired” that’s a red flag! For some people this can happen as early as 200km into wearing a shoe.

Andrei: Right on that point. Look at the sole of the shoes that I ran in when I got my marathon PB and my first ultra-marathon. They will be always close to my heart, but I know they have to go. There is almost nothing left at the back the shoe, right where I land.

 pic1   pic_2

I am running in zero drops, you can imagine with no sole left at the heel, I kind of converted them into negative drops…



What would happen if you ran the same pace over the same distance every day you went out to run?  Many people do it, and you may have even been that person yourself at one time.

You may have also wondered why your Runcoach plan has workouts at various paces and distances on your way to your goal race. We wanted to take a few moments to explain a few objectives to changing pace within workouts and/or running intervals.



What To Do When Your Goal Race Gets Delayed?
Don’t Give Up.

amanda_2As the global pandemic nears year one, the mass participation road racing scene is still far from normal. The optimist in you hoped 2021 would finally be the year in which live road race returned to its full glory. Still, races are getting postponed (with valid reason) to the second half of the year. How long should you hold out hope?  What to do with extra time?


First and foremost, absolutely hold on to that optimism! Your favorite road race, standing among strangers, butterflies in your stomach, and the minty muscle cream scent in the air will return. But I empathize with you, as my own race opportunities dwindle away each month. You’re allowed to feel disappointed. Allow yourself the time to go through the stages of coping using the techniques below.


1) Work On Weaknesses

Life is all about perspective. In any circumstance, the way you frame it allows you to move forward. I encourage you to see the delay as extra time to prepare (different from extra time to wait to start).

We all have areas of opportunities to develop and refine. Whether it’s physical (shin splints, weak glutes, runner’s knee, tendonitis), a target weight-loss goal, or mental (anxiety, mental strength to dig deep when it feels hard) the additional months can be invaluable to prepare your body and mind to have an exceptional race when it’s “go time”.


2) Scale Back

A common topic I discuss with my athletes is over-training. It’s the quickest way to kill your joy for running. If your goal race is a half marathon or longer, and the race is postponed, there is no additional benefit to keep loading up on miles. Instead, shift your focus to maintain fitness and find smaller goals to excite you.


3) Setup Time Trials

If this is a new word for you, think of a “Time Trial” as a practice race. Having a goal that you can chase on your own terms can be a big win (especially given the uncertainty  in today’s world). Time trials can help to gauge your fitness, practice pace, try out race tactics, go through race day logistics like type of breakfast, and hone in on the mental side of racing.

Jeff_brune_boston_2Runcoach athlete Jeff is in a similar situation to many BQ athletes. He was hopeful Boston 2021 would go on in April. Most of his preparation in 2020 was done with hope of running a memorable 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. With the recent news of Boston getting pushed back to the Fall, he’s once again reassessing his training.

Jeff wrote, “I want to chase a half marathon PR, even at altitude I think my old PR is vulnerable”.  That’s all a coach needs to hear, a spark of motivation. We decided on a half marathon time trial about a month out from the initial discussion, with training specifically focused on crushing his current personal best.


4) Explore Off-Road

Without a tight timeline to get ready for “race day” you have a free pass to run on trails, grass, packed snow (stay upright though!). Simply do something different to shake up your usual routes.

Doing so will not only help you see some different scenery, but it will challenge your body to activate muscle groups you don’t normally use while running on a flat road.



In short, when things change... don’t quit. Instead adapt and move forward with your running shoes ON!



Part 3:  Running Through the Pandemic – Alternatives to Running

 

For the third installation of Running Through the Pandemic, I want to share what I’ve done through the pandemic as alternatives to running.

 

As we move into our 4th quarter of battling Covid-19, many of us find ourselves in need of alternatives to running.

 

In my last two posts, I shared How I Dealt with Bar Air Quality during the fires in the Northwestern part of the U.S. and my Recovery from Injury #2 after my knee surgery in July.

 

For this next edition, I want to discuss some other hobbies I’ve picked up through these uncertain times.  I realize that many of us our back in social restrictions as the virus conditions to disrupt our normal lives and adversely affect so many people.  Additionally, many will now enter the most restrictive winter season without access to gyms and normal workout locations. So here’s what I’ve done (potentially not all positive) in lieu of physical activity.

 

In April, I started fishing more at Coyote Pt. a City Park in San Mateo.  The serenity of the water and the surroundings have always been good for my soul.  Still it is the randomness of the potential and unexpected timing of the reward that drives me the most.  This past spring the San Francisco Bay had one of the best California Halibut runs ever.  My fishing partner/daughter, Riley and I were able to catch this 24” beauty which rendered some wonderful ceviche’ (email me for the recipe’;-).

 halibut

 

I also went back to my youth and taught my older daughter, Olivia how to play my favorite childhood game = Battleship.  As is often the case my 3-0 perfect record soon evaporated an the pupil has now overtaken the teacher.  She leads the series 8-4.

 

 

I also started an online game of Hearts with my mother in western Pennsylvania and my in-laws here in the area.  That has given us time to connect and of course compete during the restrictions.  An online Zoom Christmas Scavenger Hunt with my niece, Elise in Philadelphia was a success (at least in my mind) and Zoom connections have been meaningful throughout.

 

Additionally, I started to play in an online poker game with friends and friends of friends from the East Coast.  This was quite the lesson as I’ve always considered myself a good poker player until I met these guys.  Now I feel like I’ve taken a Master Class in Texas Hold ‘Em and gained what I believe are meaningful insights into playing the hand you’ve been dealt and using the information at your disposal to make good decisions.  Not sure I can entirely recommend this but I wanted to share nonetheless.

 

While I’ve tried meditation throughout the pandemic, the most impactful solace this year was my work with a life coach.  She provides insightful perspective and is an invaluable sounding board as I continue to navigate these choppy waters.

 

Lastly, I’ve enjoyed nights with my wife.  We set use Netflix & Amazon as our before bed hobby and have enjoyed The Boys (not my wife’s favorite), The Social Dillemma (a must see for all of us that look at our phones too often), and especially Schitt’s Creek based on a family that found themselves in crisis long before the pandemic.

 

That’s pretty rosy picture I’ve painted, but the truth of this journey is somewhere in between.  I’ve been moody, anxious and nearly unbearable when not exercising.  I’m sure if you asked my family and those closest to me they would tell a different story of how I’ve been throughout the year, but I keep trying and encourage you all to do the same.  I have also stopped taking calls on my way home from work – it is a terrible habit and I’m happy to be rid of it.

 

If you’ve gotten this far – thank for reading.  I’d love to hear about your alternatives to running and physical activity through the pandemic.

 

Coach Tom’s Top-3 List for Alternatives to Running Through the Pandemic

  1. Double down on all the non-physical activities that bring you joy such as reading, playing cards, watching a TV series, writing, painting, meditation, etc.
  2. Try something new that you wouldn’t normally do.  See my recommendations above.
  3. Stay the course and use this time for resilient self-care and a path forward when things do return to “normal”


Treadmill Running Tips

October 24, 2020
You may refer to it as the "dreadmill". The boring nature aside, there are plenty of benefits to gain from using the treadmill to complete your training. Whether it's unpleasant weather, or for safety reason (looking at your early birds and night owls), make the most of the 'mill with these tips.

Six Tips For Enjoyable Indoor Running:


- Always set aside 5-10 minutes to "warm up". treadmill_rc_134223
Don't start running at a high speed on the treadmill. Just as if you were outdoors, stretch lightly before starting you run. Then easy jog 5-10 minutes at a relaxed pace so that your body can prepare for the workout or run ahead. 


-Use a slight incline.
Set the treadmill incline between 1-2%. Since there's no wind resistance indoors, a gentle uphill better simulates outdoor running. If you are just getting started with running or new to treadmill, it's okay to se the machine at 0%. Make it a goal to be able to run at 1% within a month. 


Did you know having the incline at 0% is actually like running on a slight downhill. Don't slack off!


-Do not hold on to the handrail or console.

These are placed for safety, not to guide your activity.  When you hold on to the rail, it hunches you over. This is not an effective running or walking form. It can cause lower and upper back pain. Keep your spin nice and straight, and pump your arms forward. 


-Pay attention to your stride.
You should have the same stride as when you are running/ walking outside. Lots of people make the mistake of overstriding (landing heel first with your foot well ahead of your body's center of gravity). This is because the treadmill belt helps to move you forward. 
To avoid this mistake, keep the belt at a pace you can manage. Keep your stride ligh and quick. If you have a device to track your cadence use it!


-Do not step on or off while the treadmill is moving.
Most treadmill injuries are cause by falling or jumping off a fast moving belt. If you need a quick break, use the pause function or slow the speed of the machine to a very slow pace, and step off.
Top prevent needing to step off, try to be prepared with a towel, headphones, water and your phone before you get started.


-Bring entertainment
To combat the boredom, bring music, a podcast, magazine, or movie to watch. I usually don't recomend using headphones outside for safety reasons, but inside it's perfectly find. Having entertainment will prevent you from constantly checking your time and distance, and allow you to relax. 

Be sure to aware of your form still. Nice and tall spine! 



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